Just the fact that I binge-watched my way through Daredevil’s 13 episode first season in the span of 48 hours should tell you all you need to know: this is a dark, riveting and immensely addictive show.
If you’ve never heard of Daredevil, he’s the comic world’s first blind superhero, and thankfully, this thought-provoking production (with touches of subtle humor) does the character justice. The cast is stellar across the board, starting with Charlie Cox who is astounding as our hero Matt Murdock. You never once question his blindness, and the actor conveys the perfect dose of vulnerability and heroic charisma. And to top it all off, he’s absolutely incredible in the show’s many fight sequences (which I’ve singularly praised below). Equally magnificent is Vincent D’Onofrio who plays the show’s antagonist, the ruthless Wilson Fisk (also known to comic fans as The Kingpin). The great thing about Daredevil’s baddie is that he’s uniquely layered and complex. In fact, his romance with an art-dealer called Vanessa earns quite a bit of screen-time throughout the season, and it’s thoroughly compelling. Fisk has moments of insecurity, and yet you can can always sense his rage bubbling beneath the surface. It’s just a completely unsettling and absorbing performance.
As a whole, the season does an impeccable job of showcasing the two men’s respective journeys as they find themselves on a collision course with New York’s Hell Kitchen as their battleground. Daredevil explores this iconic rivalry by also tackling some weighty themes with religion at the forefront (after all, Matt is Catholic, and he pays his priest a visit quite often). Although Fisk is the “villain” of the piece, he often seems genuinely remorseful over the things he’s done, while Matt – as one character so carefully highlights- sometimes “enjoys” the beatings he lays down. It’s through these characters that Daredevil paints a captivating picture of good and evil. Both Fisk and Murdock want to save their city, they just go about it in different ways. It’s enough to make you question your own views on morality, as every development gradually escalates the stakes culminating in the gripping and satisfying finale.
And the action, oh lord the action. The production values and fight choreography across these 13 episodes is intricate, brutal and mesmerizing. Every blow has impact, and every clash is blood-pumping and visceral. A case could be made that some of those set-pieces are a bit too dimly-lit, but that palette certainly suits the show’s essence and gritty cinematography (which is just gorgeous). One of the single best sequences I’ve ever witnessed on film occurs at the end of the second episode, and it’s a five-minute-long fight scene that was filmed in exactly one take. Not only is it a technical achievement on every level, it thematically showcases Matt’s resilience, courage and drive in the face of unspeakable odds.
If I had any complaints about Daredevil, it would be Deborah Ann Woll. As Matt’s secretary Karen Page, it feels like Woll is playing a variation of her True Blood character (far too whiny for my liking). In addition, her investigation subplot became needlessly repetitive as the season went along. On the bright side, the writers took her character to a much more interesting place in the season’s final hours. Here’s hoping she gets a stronger story arc next year since she’s undoubtedly going to be an integral part of the show going forward.
– Loved the show’s opening frames with Matt’s original accident and his harrowing “I can’t see” screams into his father’s arms.
– The opening credits with the red wax creations sure are beautiful aren’t they?
– Goosebump moment: Matt hearing his dad telling him to “get to work” as our hero rises to his feet and kicks ass.
– Nifty action moment: Matt taking out Vladimir’s thug by dropping the fire extinguisher from above.
– Matt following Wesley through the streets by listening to his ticking watch was super cool.
– Touching bit: Matt taking off his mask just before saving the kid so he doesn’t startle him.
– Kickass scene with Matt saving Claire from the Russians and her finishing off Sergie and sobbing in Matt’s arms.
– Loved the painting Fisk bought – “The rabbit in the snow storm”. From its beginnings when Fisk’s dad made look at the wall as he beat his mother (a harrowing scene), to that haunting ending in the jail cell – all very thematically resonant.
– Little Fisk killing his dad with the hammer – dayum!
– It’s a short scene but there’s a great fight that’s filmed from inside a taxi cab as the camera spins 360 degrees.
– How great was Madame Gao? I adored every one of her scenes, especially when it was revealed that she in fact does speak English. And when she punched Matt in the chest and sent him flying? Even cooler.
– Fisk bashing Anatoly’s brains with the car door was extremely hard to watch. The sound effects, the splatter – just vicious.
– Blake and Hoffman were an intriguing pair of characters. I particularly liked how they killed anyone who dared mention Fisk’s name.
– Those explosions across New York were pretty crazy huh? A city on fire indeed.
– I enjoyed all the flashbacks to a young Matt both pre and post-blindness. From that heartbreaking moment he found his dad’s fallen body to him coming to terms with his abilities. The sequences with his mentor Stick were especially wonderful.
– Ice cream wrapper bracelets!
– Matt mentions a greek girlfriend from college. Can Elektra please join the cast in season two?
– The Matt-Stick fight that decimated our hero’s apartment was insanely relentless and thrilling.
– I wish we learned more about the creepy child warrior, Black Sky. It’s hinted at that he’s some sort of weapon. As for the ninja organization that Nobu works for, it’s obviously The Hand, the supervillian organization from the Daredevil comics. Hopefully, they will be involved in season two. That ending with Stick talking to a mysterious tattooed figure was creepy.
– The first meeting between Fisk and Murdock when the latter visited Vanessa at the art exhibit was bone-chilling.
– Please note that Matt does indeed get “the spins” after drinking too much.
– Also important to note, a pedophile pushed Matt to begin his vigilante ways.
– I loved Karen and Ben finding Wilson’s mom. Completely unexpected.
– I kind of wish Rosario Dawson was the show’s female lead. Each of Claire’s scenes with Matt were electric, and the chemistry and sexual tension between them was off the charts. More Claire in season two please!
– How creative was the choreography as Matt beat up the cops while handcuffed?
– The flashbacks of Matt and Foggy in college were excellent. They exquisitely contrasted the wedge driven between the two in present day after Foggy discovered Matt’s identity.
– The fight between Matt and Nobu (dressed in ninja attire) was spectacular. Matt gets brutally beaten before setting his opponent on fire, only for Fisk to shockingly arrive. Matt then barely makes it out of ANOTHER beating before crashing out the window. That episode (Speak of The Devil), is my favorite of the season.
– Genius trick by Madame Gao when she has her blind workers cause a ruckus and surround Matt.
– Karen killing Wesley was quite the jawdropper. And Wilson’s sadness over his friend’s death was actually sort of sweet wasn’t it?
– Creative touch with the violin playing as Matt parkours across the city. Speaking of music, having opera play in the background as Fisk’s people get arrested all over town was a hilarious bit.
– Charlie Cox’s standout acting moment of the season: Matt breaking down and telling Karen he can’t continue alone. Give this guy an Emmy.
– Cool running joke: Fake pointing out that Matt can tell when people nod.
– Badass moment: Hoffman opening his eyes and seeing that Matt has subdued all his captors. Woah!
– Do you guys reckon we’ll be seeing Vanessa against eventually? I feel like Fisk’s new wife will turn into some sort of super-villainess eventually.
– Chilling moment: Fisk telling the story to the guards as his escape plot is hatched and one of the guards turns on the other.
– Supporting characters I enjoyed: Melvin, the costume-maker (who could surprisingly fight) and Marcy, Foggy’s ex-girlfriend. But my favourite? Leland, played to perfection by Bob Gunton. It’s a pity Fisk killed him in the end like he did all his other lackeys. To be fair, Leland had tried to poison Vanessa with Gao’s help.
– Wasn’t a big fan of Ben the reporter. The overly snoopy reporter shtick has been done before, and his death didn’t really move me.
– Both Fisk and Matt flip over tables in fits of rage in different episodes. Both of them also urge the other to “Take your shot” before their big battles. Parallels people!
– The final battle between Daredevil and Kingpin in the alley was pretty darn cool wasn’t it?
– Brilliant final shot with Daredevil on a roof in all his glory as he jumps off in pursuit of a woman’s screams.And Daredevil’s red costume? Thumbs up, although I actually didn’t end up minding the black in the end.
Zingers from Hell’s Kitchen
Matt: When he was outmatched, my dad’s strategy was to let ’em hit him till they broke their hands.
Foggy: “The incident”? Is that what we’re calling it now?
Realtor: Well, it sounds so much better than “death and destruction raining from the sky, nearly wiping Hell’s Kitchen off the map.”
Karen: Can I ask a personal question?
Matt: I haven’t always been blind.
Karen: I guess that’s what everyone wants to know.
Matt: That or, “How do you comb your hair?”
Karen: How DO you comb your hair?
Matt: Honestly, you just… you hope for the best.
Leland: It’s perfect Chechnyans-kidnap-a-preschool weather, Vladimir.
Claire: Your outfit kind of sucks, by the way.
Matt: Yeah, it’s a work in progress.
Claire: This is what you do? You make life difficult for bad men?
Matt: It’s one way of putting it.
Claire: No offense, but you don’t seem to be very good at it.
Claire: (to Matt) See? No reason to get all stabby.
Karen: I don’t see the city anymore. All that I see are its dark corners.
Claire: Slap on top of that, he can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint.
Matt: The last part’s the Catholicism.
Matt: (to Claire) I know you’re afraid. You can’t give in to the fear. If you do… men like this win.
Jack: Good thing about red…they can’t tell how much you’re bleeding.
Man: Used to be if you killed a man, you sent his wife flowers. Now they just send his wife with him.
Vanessa: There’s an old children’s joke. You hold up a white piece of paper and you ask, “What’s this?” “A rabbit in a snowstorm.”
Leland: I mean, if he had an iron suit or a magic hammer, maybe that would explain why you keep getting your asses handed to you.
Claire: Like, what do you actually see?
Matt: A world on fire.
Claire: If all I saw was fire, I’d probably want to hit people, too.
Wilson: Let the police do their jobs. That’s what I pay them for, isn’t it?
Matt: I’m not big on guns.
Vladimir: Great. Little stick, much better.
Wilson: You’re a child playing at being a hero.
Matt: No, I’m not trying to be a hero. I’m just a guy that got fed up with men like you and I decided to do something about it.
Wilson: That’s what makes you dangerous. It’s not the mask. It’s not the skills. It’s your ideology.
Matt: I’m not a killer.
Vladimir: The moment you put on the mask… you got into cage with animals. Animals don’t stop fighting. Not until one of them is dead.
Stick: You know what they call stuff like that? Gifts. The special kind. The kind that very few people have. Or deserve.
Matt: I never thought of it that way.
Stick: Well, that’s because you’re stupid.
Matt: I’m not stupid, I’m smart.
Stick: Because you taught yourself how to run your little fingers over the bumps and read Braille? Smart don’t come out of books, kid. Smart is making the right decision at the right time. Like now. What’s it gonna be, Matty? You gonna spend your life crying and rocking yourself to sleep at night? Or are you gonna dig deep and find out what it takes to reshuffle those cards life dealt you?
Stick: What’s it taste like?
Stick: Everybody can taste vanilla. Pay a little more attention, use those gifts. You know what you got? Sugar grains, vanilla bean, milk from three different dairies from two states… ugh… batch of chemicals straight off the periodic tables and… dirt off the guy’s hand that served it to you. He spent his morning gardening.
Ben: My experience… there are no heroes, no villains. Just people with different agendas.
Karen: God. I mean, it’s like… It’s like trying to straighten out a bowl of spaghetti.
Stick: “Boo-hoo. Stick left me. Think I’ll bury my sorrows between the legs of a supermodel.”
Stick: (to Matt) Anger is a spark, good. Rage is a wildfire, out of control, therefore useless. Just like you laying there.
Leland: (to Fisk) That’s great. That’s wonderful. So we have no idea what the guy you had shot might have said to the whack job you had framed for it?
Wilson: You speak English.
Madame Gao: I speak many languages.
Wilson: How many?
Madame Gao: All of them.
Karen: Matt Murdock, Attorney at Why the Hell Bother.
Matt: If I let him consume this city, all the people that will suffer and die…
Priest: There is a wide gulf between inaction and murder Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history. So the question you have to ask yourself is… are you struggling with the fact that you don’t wanna kill this man., but have to? Or that you don’t have to kill him., but want to?
Foggy: Just tell me one thing, Matt. Are you even really blind?
Madame Gao: Man cannot be both savior and oppressor… light and shadow. One has to be sacrificed for the other. Choose, and choose wisely. Or others shall choose for you.
Foggy: A blind old man taught you the ancient ways of martial arts. Isn’t that the plot to Kung Fu?
Foggy: You listened to her heartbeat without her permission?
Foggy: El grande avocados!
Matt: That’s not Spanish, that’s fruit.
Foggy: We’re gonna be the best damn avocados this city has ever seen.
Wilson: You thought he was unsettling, if I recall.
Leland: I think you’re unsettling half the time. See me lighting a match?
Karen: There’s nothing you can do, but swim in shit and hope you don’t get too much in your mouth.
Foggy: Maybe it isn’t only about justice, Matt. Maybe it’s about you having an excuse to hit someone. Maybe you just can’t stop yourself.
Matt: I don’t want to stop.
Claire: You told me you were the man this city needs. I think that was only half true. I think you’re also the man this city created, for better or worse.
Wesley: Did you speak with Gao?
Leland: We had a chat, yeah.
Leland: And what? She said she was deeply saddened and quoted a fortune cookie or some mystical sh1t.
Wesley: Growing to love something is really simply forgetting slowly what you dislike about it.
Matt: Karen, did something happen?
Karen: Yes. The world fell apart. Didn’t you notice?
Leland: Just remember, uh… wind blows the hardest the closer you get to the mountaintop.
Wilson: I’ll make them suffer for what they’ve done.
Vanessa: I expect nothing less.
Matt: I know this guy… We were close once. He told me I’d have to push the people that I care about away, if I wanted to be effective at what I do.
Karen: Seems like you listened.
Matt: Yeah. I thought I didn’t. This guy, he has a way of getting in your head, you know? And here’s the thing… I had a really shitty night. The kind where you think you’ve seen the bottom of humanity, and the pit just keeps getting deeper, you know? I can’t do this alone. I can’t. I can’t take another step.
Ben: People seek the truth… no matter where they find it.
Wilson: That may have been the case when you and I were young. This world around us is preoccupied with celebrity weddings and videos of cats. But complicated issues, issues that matter… they take too much focus. They take too much time away from texting and the thousand channels on the satellite dish.
Wilson: It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be deceived by their true nature.
Wilson: This city doesn’t deserve a better tomorrow. It deserves to drown in its filth!
Wilson: You think one man in a silly little costume will make a difference?
Exceptional performances, explosive action, and a tight narrative make Daredevil a must-watch series. Thank you Marvel and Netflix for taking superhero storytelling to another level.